Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Endorsements divide Democrats in Inland Congressional race

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Although an influential Democratic PAC is backing her rival, attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes has some big name support in her run for an Inland Congressional seat, putting the likes of Rep. Xavier Becerra and former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in her corner.

When the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee endorsed Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar last year, the race was shaping up as a showdown between him and incumbent Republican Gary Miller in the 31st Congressional District, which leans Democratic.

Miller's recent retirement announcement increased the odds that the primary might result in the two best-funded Democrats, Aguilar and Reyes, moving to the general election.

In a field crowded with Democrats, Aguilar missed getting into the runoff when he placed third in the 2012 primary election behind Miller and another Republican.

Reyes entered the race with the endorsement of Emily's List, the PAC that supports Democratic women candidates, and she has raised just under a half-million dollars — nearly as much as Aguilar. Becerra and Solis are among her highest-profile endorsements.

A third Democratic candidate, former Congressman Joe Baca, has said the DCCC endorsement of Aguilar was intended to keep him from gaining traction in the race. Baca has raised only a few thousand dollars, but is counting on his name recognition in the Inland region to put him into the runoff.

Along with the party endorsement, Aguilar also has the backing of many elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Meanwhile, there are also several Republicans in the race now that Miller is out. His former policy chief Lesli Gooch, San Bernardino City Councilman John Valdivia, and businessman Paul Chabot threaten to split the Republican vote among themselves.

In California's so-called "jungle primary" system, the top two vote getters advance to the runoff, regardless of party affiliation.

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